Composer, Publisher
Date of Birth: December 8, 1887
Place of Birth: Lebanon, Alabama
Date of Death: January 21, 1960

2001 Inductee to Alabama Music Hall of Fame

Born in 1887 in Lebanon, Al., J.R. (Pap) Baxter became one of the most influential people in Gospel music. As a student of T.B. Mosley and A.J. Showalter, Baxter learned the rudiments of harmony and gospel music. He began teaching while still a student.

He then studied hymn writing with James Rowe, Charles H. Gabriel and others, and used his talents to write literally thousands of "song poems".

In 1918 he married Clarice Howard, who became known as Ma Baxter, a literary teacher also from DeKalb County. They worked together, devoting their time and talent to gospel music.

Shortly after his marriage, Baxter began managing the A.J. Showalter office in Texarkana, Tx.

In 1926, he joined with his friend V.O. Stamps to form the Stamps-Baxter Music & Printing Co., Inc., running the firms Chattanooga, Tn., office.

The company has become the largest gospel song business in the world. In addition to publishing hymnals, the firms sponsored traveling quartets and radio programs.

With the death of Stamps in 1940, Baxter moved to the firm's main office in Dallas, Tx., and took over the operation of the company and controlled its operation until his death in 1960.

This native of sand mountain enjoys legendary status in Gospel music circles. He was a prolific song composer and was co-founder of the renowned Stamps-Baxter Music Co. For many years, several quartets bore his name, and he published thousands of songs and marketed hundreds of thousands of songbooks and trained scores of singers and directors.

Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame

Jesse Randall Baxter Jr. (1887 – January 29, 1960), known professionally as J.R. Baxter and sometimes referred to as "Pap", was an American Southern Gospel composer and publisher. Baxter grew up in Dekalb County, Alabama, and was a schoolteacher; he married Clarice Howard in 1918. He studied with Thomas B. Mosley and Anthony Johnson Showalter, and in 1926 bought a stake in Virgil O. Stamps' gospel music publishing company. The Stamps-Baxter Music & Printing Company became one of the leading publishers of gospel songs in the early 20th century. Baxter ran the company's Chattanooga, Tennessee office until Stamps's death in 1940; following this Baxter moved to Dallas, Texas to run the main office.

Baxter's interest in schoolteaching led him to publish shape-note songbooks and sponsor a Stamps-Baxter School of Music, both of which contributed to the popularity of Gospel music.

Baxter also composed Gospel songs himself; his works include "Try Jesus", "Travel the Sunlit Way", "Something Happens (When You Give Your Heart to God"), "I Have Peace in My Soul", "Living Grace", and "I Want to Help Some Weary Pilgrim". After Baxter's death, his wife continued to run the business until she died, after which it was sold to Zondervan. In 1997, Baxter was inducted into the Southern Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame.


J. R. "Pap" Baxter was a pioneering figure in the development of Southern Gospel Music. Individually and through his partnership with V.O. Stamps, his impact on commercial gospel music was immeasurable.

After an early career with the A. J. Showalter Company, he joined forces with fellow entrepreneur V. O. Stamps in 1926 and the pair created one of the most successful companies in the gospel music field, The Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Company.

The annual Stamps-Baxter School of Music trained several generations of young people throughout the South in the fundamentals of composing and performing gospel music. Baxter helped to popularize gospel music throughout the country through the publication of shape-note songbooks and by sponsoring numerous quartets on the radio. Shape-note songbooks from the Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Company found their way into homes and churches throughout America.


Also see: Ivan M. Tribe, J.R. Baxter. Encyclopedia of American Gospel Music. Routledge, 2005, p. 32.





The Stamps-Baxter Music Company was an influential southern music publishing company in the shape note gospel field. Virgil Oliver Stamps founded the company in 1924 and J. R. Baxter Jr. joined him to form the Stamps-Baxter Music Company, which was based in Dallas, Texas, with offices in Chattanooga, Tennessee and Pangburn, Arkansas. Stamps got his start working for the James D. Vaughan Publishing Company from which he got many of his business ideas.

Stamps and Baxter operated a music school which was the primary source of the thousands of gospel songs they published. The company issued several paperback publications each year with cheap binding and printed on cheap paper. Thus, the older books are now in delicate condition. These songbooks were used in church singing events, called "conventions," as well as at other church events, although they did not take the place of regular hymnals. Among the country music and bluegrass "standards" that were first published by Stamps-Baxter are "Rank Strangers to Me", "Just a Little Talk With Jesus", "Precious Memories", "Farther Along", "If We Never Meet Again", "Victory in Jesus", and "I Won't Have to Cross Jordan Alone".

Another major part of the corporation was its sponsorship of gospel quartets who sang the company's music in churches throughout the southern United States. At the end of World War II they were sponsoring 35 such quartets. The company also had a quartet who sang on radio station KRLD in Dallas, beginning in 1936. This station would boost its transmitting power at midnight, so that it could be heard across the nation. An additional part of the Stamps-Baxter music empire was a magazine, Gospel Music News. Each part of the corporation supported every other part, giving strength to the entire organization.

In 1945, Frank Stamps, younger brother of V. O. Stamps, left the organization to form the rival Stamps Quartet Music Company. At the same time a number of quartets left Stamps-Baxter resulting in the end of the company’s quartet sponsorship coinciding with the end of the war. Frank’s defection did not hurt the Stamps-Baxter company in the long run, although it did lead to some confusion among the public. The Stamps-Baxter School of Music declined after World War II, but its successor continues to this day as an annual two-week summer workshop under the leadership of Ben Speer.

Stamps died in 1940, leaving the company to J. R. Baxter. After Baxter died in 1960, his widow, Clarice Howard "Ma" Baxter, ran the company until her death in 1972. In 1974, the company was sold to Zondervan, which became part of the Benson Company in 1986.

The "convention" song books typically included 140 songs. The first song would be on the inside front cover, numbered 00 with the first song inside the book being numbered 1-A, and the rest of the songs were numbered 1 through 138. Each book included four or five older public domain songs such as John Newton's "Amazing Grace", Mackay's "Revive Us Again", Stennett’s "I Am Bound for the Promised Land", and Smith’s "America". In addition, one or two songs from earlier Stamps-Baxter publications might be included. The other 134 songs would consist of new material that had never been published before. The authors and composers of these songs were paid as much as $7.00 for each song, which would be the only monetary compensation that they would get.

The Stamps-Baxter company was careful to renew its copyrights under United States copyright law.[citation needed] The collections, not the individual songs, were copyrighted, so that anyone looking up records for the songs must know in which collection it was first published.[citation needed] Under current U. S. copyright law, works published between 1922 and 1963 will not enter public domain until 95 years after their initial year of copyright if the copyright was renewed. Thus, a Stamps-Baxter song copyrighted in 1929 will enter public domain in 2024.

There is also a claim to copyright on these songs. On October 16, 1998, three corporations, Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc., Stamps-Baxter Music, and Bridge Building Music, Inc., filed for copyright on "Glory Special" & 19,618 other titles. This large collection includes all of the Stamps-Baxter convention songs. Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc now owns Stamps-Baxter Music and Bridge Building Music. Therefore the copyright is maintained by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc.
















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